[Hpn] 2 sentenced in Greater Ministries International Church scam

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Thu, 07 Jun 2001 13:36:09 -0700


my advice?

go fucking pray!


http://www.sptimes.com:80/News/060701/TampaBay/2_sentenced_in_church.shtml

2 sentenced in church-run fraud
 
Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the multimillion dollar Greater
Ministries International Church scam.

By GRAHAM BRINK

 St. Petersburg Times, published June 7, 2001
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the multimillion dollar Greater
Ministries International Church scam.

TAMPA -- Two former members of the Greater Ministries International Church
who admitted to helping bilk tens of millions of dollars from thousands of
victims were sentenced to prison Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore sentenced Andrew J. Krishak to 30
months in prison and two years of probation for helping attract investors to
what prosecutors called a "classic Ponzi scheme." James R. Chambers received
five years behind bars and two years of probation.

"I was involved in something that was wrong," Krishak told the judge. "I
should have just left."

A jury in March handed down guilty verdicts on 72 counts of conspiracy, wire
fraud, money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions against Greater
Ministries president Gerald Payne, 64, his wife, Betty Payne, 61, and church
elders Patrick Henry Talbert, 52, Haywood Eudon Hall, 59, and David
Whitfield, 48. They are awaiting sentencing.

Both Krishak, 49, and Chambers, 69, pleaded guilty before the trial to a
single count of conspiracy. Krishak, who had faced up to five years in
prison, testified against his former colleagues. Whittemore agreed Wednesday
that Krishak's cooperation warranted a reduction in his sentence.

"I have no doubt that you have sincere religious beliefs," Whittemore told
Krishak. "You were swept along in this fraud."

Chambers did not provide assistance. For that reason, argued federal
prosecutor Robert Mosakowski, he didn't deserve a break on his sentence
beyond the reduction he received by being allowed to plead to a single
count, instead of facing 17 counts and the accompanying exposure to a longer
sentence. 

"He had the keys to the jail cell, and he didn't use them," Mosakowski said.

The defendants promised to double investors' money in a scheme they operated
from March 1993 to January 1999 at the church at 715 Bird St. near the Tampa
Greyhound Track, according to court records. It also was known as the
"Double Your Blessing Gift Exchange" and the "Faith Promises Program."

Christians from across the country were told their money would double in 17
months, thanks to gold mines and other profitable overseas investments the
church claimed it had.

Investors were told part of the profits would be used to help the homeless,
drug addicts and foreign ministries, the indictment stated. Part of the
pitch included a passage from Luke 6:38: "Give, and it shall be given unto
you." 

But the funds returned to some investors actually came from money put up by
later investors, the indictment charged. Meanwhile, church officials and
"elders" were receiving 5 percent of the gifts from the faithful they
recruited, commissions that the defendants termed "gas money." The officials
defrauded 18,853 people in several states out of a total of about
$448-million, prosecutors said.

Whittemore called the scheme "disgusting and despicable" in the way it
preyed on people's religious beliefs and left so many victims in financial
ruin. 

- Times staff writer Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Copyright 2000 St. Petersburg Times

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